This reflection is based on Luke 19:1-10.
He’s someone some people would–even in this endangered age of political correctness–call “vertically challenged.” There are, of course, every sort of psychological theory that claims how his type tends to over-compensate. But for Zacchaeus, it really was all just a job. Corruption and extortion were an occupational hazard; every other tax collector did it. And why not make the most of it since his own people loathed him anyway? Working for the Romans? Someone’s got to do it, he used to say to himself. Even if this isn’t really me. Even if I’m way more than this, he used to remind himself until even that voice eventually was never heard from again.
And then one day he heard that voice again. The crowds had been abuzz about this prophet from Nazareth, and rumors had it that he was coming to town. Something about the way he spoke, they said. Something about the way he looked into your eyes. You just felt it; he was something special.
And to top it all, they gestured to him derisively, he kept the company of the likes of you.
One afternoon, as he was counting change, he saw his townsfolk rushing to the east, shouting, “He’s here! Jesus of Nazareth is here!” Something about that name made his heart skip a beat. He quickly gathered his coins and followed the crowds.
Of course he couldn’t see a thing; everyone else in front of him was blocking the view. It was then that he spotted the tree by the road–a sycamore tree. Strategically located, it spread its limbs tall and wide, and provide the best vantage point for him. He used to be the fastest tree climber in the village, and maybe even if he hadn’t done it for years, he could still manage.
But he hesitated: What would people say if they saw him clambering up that sycamore tree? It would be the last straw to strip him of his any last remaining ounce of dignity. Was he willing to risk that? Did he really want to see this Jesus this much?
Some moments you just know, and that moment Zacchaeus did. Before he knew it, he was making his way to the perfect branch, abundant with leaves, where he settled comfortably hidden from view. That was the best part: In their excitement, the people hardly noticed him up on the tree.
But Zacchaeus had spoken too soon, so to speak. Before he knew it, to his horror, all eyes were fixed upon him. But more than any other pair of eyes, his eyes were upon him. And the rumors were true: There was something about him and his eyes and his voice. What was it that made this Jesus of Nazareth so special?
He thought he misunderstood, but the prophet had told him: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”
It was the moment that changed his life forever. And it was the moment he knew. What made Jesus special was that an encounter with him made you realize that you were special.
If he hadn’t thrown all caution to the wind, if he hadn’t discarded his hesitation, if he hadn’t overcome his concern for what others would say, he would never have found his way up that sycamore tree. That sycamore tree really stood for his past and the self that he had reduced himself to. It was the tree he needed to climb and transcend. It was there among its leaves that he once again heard that long-lost inner voice and found the self in him that was truly valuable. If he had not climbed that tree, he would still be counting coins.
We’ve all got to find and climb our sycamore tree. What’s yours?
16 replies on “WHAT’S YOUR SYCAMORE TREE?”
The Gospel of last Sunday is an eye opener for me. It makes me realize that I have to listen to that small voice calling for me to holiness. Though it may be difficult, it’s worth the patience and the perseverance.
I pray for fearless courage to climb the sycamore tree in front of me. I have heard His voice, got distracted too often, but thankful that the voice kept on calling. I pray for the grace and blessing of courage.
Dear Fr Johnny
Your homilies force us to think and invite us to trust God in all areas of life. Thank you to enlighten us Sunday after Sunday.
A Lutheran theology teacher from Strasbourg, Mr André Birmele told us during a course of theology, God does not abandon any of his children. He will forgive all because his love is infinite. Even to Hitler he said, who marked of gruesome manner Europe and the 20th century, our Lord will forgiven and will recognize him as son of God. But such people as Hitler will they find their sycamore?
How many are around the world, led astray by hatred in a desolate desert in which doesn’t grow any sycamore nor a single bush. How many are exhausted by misery, incapable to see the strategic tree that will allow to transcend them, and so cannot find their authentic self, the divine spark that God has entrusted to each human being ? How many are there who, blinded by the desire to possess, who stores up things for themselves, and in so doing, uproot the sycamores?
And we Christians, we are too often the crowd unable to recognize the singularity of the other, his singular human quality, we are the crowd that hide the sycamore to the eyes of all Z.
Mercy is absolutely right to pray the Lord : “Teach us Lord to treat our fellow human beings as special as you make us feel.”
I am blessed to listen to four homilies on Sunday first from a Franciscan priest of EWTN, second SVD, third secular priest in my Parish and fourth from a Jesuit! Varying interpretation and emphasis as they see fit of the Gospel! This Sunday your homily is the only one asking ” my sycamore tree ” a reflection that life is a constant struggle that will only stop when it is our time to go! Very timely as we remember our dead relatives and friends! Thanks again Fr J for this source of meditation!
I need to be clear which syncs more tree I need to climb on . Thank you .
That’s the challenge to all of us really. 🙂
The look of Jesus must have made Z feel special. We are all special in the
eyes of the Lord who never ceases to give us yet another chance to go
back to Him. Teach us Lord to treat our fellow human beings as special as
you make us feel.
It’s that look we seek–and we’ll find it only in the Lord. As you say, we need to bear that benevolent gaze to our neighbors.
Thank you Father as always your homilies are affecting your readers and followers .Luxeat Lux. You are a blessing.
…this is very human gospel…it brings to the core one’s attitude thoughts and personhood. Im too hapoy for Zach. Who’s action went 360* to find the answer his mind was bugging about….he found his Lord on a syca tree.
Now, to pray for the courage to climb my sycamore tree…..pls pray with me and for me, Fr. Johnny.
Thank you Father,am in Ethiopia working as a Lay Missionary and found Jesus among His people that I left behind my past and everything I have.God bless you,thank you,again.
Hi Fr Johnny.
I always look forward to Sunday to read Pins of Light because it enlightens me of the gospel. Thank you and stay healthy.
One of your best !❤️Thank you.
Hi, Fr. Johnny!
This is very enlightening! Now I know that the sycamore tree symbolizes our past and our selves that have been reduced to extravagance, selfishness, pride, and unworthiness to be regarded as a child of God! ^^
Beautiful Fr J. I was in the scene! Felt so good to be gazed upon and loved by Jesus. God bless you more and our journeys with the Lord.